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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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MEDIA ADVISORY 11/06/20 Cryptosporidium Update

Since 2017, the Portland Water Bureau has detected low levels of Cryptosporidium from routine monitoring. These detections are more common during the rainy season and not unexpected after the recent rains. Results from recent monitoring were received from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. One Cryptosporidium oocyst was detected in the 50-liters collected on Wednesday, Nov. 4. Prior to this detection, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake on Oct. 18, 2020, when one oocyst was detected from the 50-liters sampled.

The Bull Run watershed is Portland’s primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by September 2027 under a compliance schedule with Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Domestic Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at portlandoregon.gov/water/cryptoresults. The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

ABOUT THE PORTLAND WATER BUREAU

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.

Reflecting on a Historic Election

No doubt about it, this is not the year we expected. We have encountered a once-in-a-generation pandemic, adjusted to a dramatically different way of life, and now, weathered a historic election. You can find results from last night here.    

Locally, Portlanders did not pass Ballot Measure 26-219. Sponsored by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, this measure would have given City Commissioners and the community more flexibility to use Water Bureau-owned land outside of the Bull Run Watershed for other public benefits, and for potential public uses such as community gardens or picnic benches. Because it did not pass, no change will occur. We’ll continue to request budget for non-water maintenance work and ADA improvements in hydroparks from the city’s general fund.

“I look forward to continuing discussions about how to serve all of our community every day,” said Water Bureau Director Gabriel Solmer. “We may find that some ideas aren’t feasible or do not align with the current priorities of Portland voters. But we can always strive to find new ways to connect with and benefit this region that we serve.” 

“I appreciate former Water Commissioner Mike Lindberg, the Audubon Society of Portland and multiple environmental and social justice organizations for their partnership in getting accurate information to Portlanders,” said Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “It’s disappointing that opponents were able to sway voters with false claims.  Still, I know Director Solmer and the great staff in the Portland Water Bureau will continue to explore ways to promote equity and improve accessibility on Water Bureau sites while spending ratepayers’ money wisely.”   

Historical climate trends in the Bull Run Watershed

The Bull Run Watershed is a great primary water source. The temperate rain forest gets as much as four times the precipitation of notoriously rainy Portland. However, despite the abundant and reliable rainfall, the watershed has experienced the impacts of a warmer climate.

Benjamin Beal, a Water Resource Modeler at the Water Bureau, analyzed environmental data to determine  long-term climate and hydrology trends in the Bull Run Watershed. Beal’s analysis identified significant trends of increasing air temperatures, decreasing summer streamflows, and increasing water temperature in streams throughout the Bull Run.

Maximum and minimum air temperatures have increased by 2°F to 3°F since the early 1900s, with winter and summer having the highest seasonal rates of rising air temperature. Bull Run water temperatures have increased at an annual rate of 0.01°C to 0.02°C, with a summertime increase of 0.03°C .

The plots below show decreasing summer streamflows over the past 40 to 50 years. Lower summer  flows have implications for summer water supply availability. A definitive cause of these reduced streamflows remains a question of interest to bureau researchers, but climate change is likely an important factor.

“To me, this sort of analysis is a local reminder that the Pacific Northwest is not immune to the effects of climate change and that we have already been impacted, whether we realize it or not,” says Beal.

Although the population of Portland is growing, the demand for water has been declining. Over the last decade, demand has fallen 16% from 109 gallons per capita per day in FY 2008–09 to 90 gallons per capita per day in FY 2018–19.

While the average customer being more water-wise helps stretch water supplies during the summer months, the bureau has still had to pump significant amounts of groundwater to meet water demands as recently as 2015 and 2018 in response to  earlier than usual dry seasons. Bull Run will likely experience similar stressful water supply years in a warmer future. Continued investments in Portland’s groundwater system are needed to make the entire water system more resilient in the face of these future stressors.

“The decline in summer streamflows has significant implications for our future summer supply,” said Kavita Heyn, the bureau’s Climate Science and Adaptation Program Manager. “We need to recognize the vulnerability of the Bull Run supply to warmer and drier conditions, and ensure we have a reliable groundwater supply, that together with Bull Run, can meet water demands.”

graphs showing a decreasing trend in streamflow

The plots show a decreasing streamflow trend in four of the Water Bureau’s primary stream flow gages for the hydrologic summer, which spans July, August, and September. The y-axis shows flows in cubic feet per second, and the x-axis shows the average monthly flow for a given year. 

Cryptosporidium Monitoring Update: Detections from routine monitoring in the Bull Run. Customers do not need to take any additional precautions at this time.

Since 2017, the Portland Water Bureau has detected low levels of Cryptosporidium from routine monitoring. These detections are more common during the rainy season and not unexpected after the recent rains. Results from recent monitoring were received from the Bull Run Watershed intake for Cryptosporidium, a potentially disease-causing microorganism. One Cryptosporidium oocyst was detected in the 50-liters collected on Sunday, Oct. 18. Prior to this detection, Cryptosporidium was last detected from the Bull Run Watershed intake on July 5, 2020, when one oocyst was detected from the 50-liters sampled.

The Bull Run watershed is Portland’s primary source of drinking water. The Portland Water Bureau does not currently treat for Cryptosporidium, but is required to do so under drinking water regulations. Portland is working to install filtration by September 2027 under a compliance schedule with Oregon Health Authority. In the meantime, Portland Water Bureau is implementing interim measures such as watershed protection and additional monitoring to protect public health. Consultation with public health officials has concluded that at this time, customers do not need to take any additional precautions.

Exposure to Cryptosporidium can cause cryptosporidiosis, a serious illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach pain. People with healthy immune systems recover without medical treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with severely weakened immune systems are at risk for more serious disease. Symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system; and cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that a small percentage of the population could experience gastro-intestinal illness from Cryptosporidium and advises that customers who are immunocompromised and receive their drinking water from the Bull Run Watershed consult with their healthcare professional about the safety of drinking the tap water. The Portland Water Bureau and Burlington, City of Gresham, City of Sandy, City of Tualatin, Green Valley, GNR, Hideaway Hills, Lake Grove, Lorna Domestic Water, Lusted, Palatine Hill, Pleasant Home, Raleigh, Rockwood, Skyview Acres, Tualatin Valley, Two Rivers, Valley View and West Slope Water Districts receive all or part of their drinking water supply from the Bull Run. To learn if your drinking water comes from Bull Run, please contact your local drinking water provider.

The public and the media are encouraged to view all sampling results posted to the City’s website at portlandoregon.gov/water/cryptoresults. The bureau will notify the media and public immediately should further test results indicate a risk to public health and precautions are necessary.

Customers with questions regarding water quality can call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

ABOUT THE PORTLAND WATER BUREAU

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.

SPUR Small Business Spotlight: DĀNWÈI CĀNTĪNG 

Kyo Koo, Head Chef of Danwei CantingInspired by the flavors and culture of Northern China, Kyo Koo, head chef of Danwei Canting, fills a unique niche in Portland’s restaurant scene. For the past three years, Koo has provided a contemporary take on traditional Chinese cooking, allowing Portlanders to savor the flavors and nostalgia of Beijing.  

With most of their revenue coming from dine-in service, Koo says the pandemic has heavily impacted the restaurant’s business model.  

“The lockdown was a complete 180. We went takeout and delivery only,” Koo said. “Sales fell immediately and there were a few weeks of uncertainty surrounding our future.”  

One of Danwei Canting’s biggest challenges has been finding ways to support their front-of-house staff, who make a living off tips. Koo explained that with the SPUR credits covering utility costs, the restaurant will be able to adapt to changing expenses as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  

“Packaging costs have become a much larger part of our budget with the shift from dine-in to mostly takeout and delivery” said Koo. “The extra funds from the utility credit will allow us to increase tip share, boost morale, and overall support a really great group of employees.” 

Most recently, Koo competed in the Food Network’s Chopped Challenge and won, becoming a Chopped Champion. The episode is available on Danwei Canting’s website, where Chef Koo takes on Loco Moco, a Hawaiian comfort food in the appetizer round, pom pom mushrooms in the entree roundand an unusual coffee and crunchy cake in the final dessert round.  

Danwei Canting is one of more than 500 small businesses that received one-time credits through the Small Business Program for Utility Relief (SPUR).